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Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida (Spanish, 1863-1923)
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Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida (Spanish, 1863-1923)

La playa de Valencia: The beach at Valencia

Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida (Spanish, 1863-1923)
La playa de Valencia: The beach at Valencia
signed, dated and inscribed 'A. Don Manuel Garrido/su amigo J. Sorolla Bastida/1908' (lower left)
oil on canvas
19¾ x 25¾ in. (50 x 65.5 cm.)
Painted in 1908.
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Lot Essay

Sorolla painted Beach of Valencia in the summer of 1908 at the end of his solo exhibition in London, when he was preparing to present his work at the Hispanic Society of America on the invitation of its founder Archer Milton Huntington, who had visited Sorolla's exhibition in London and become a great enthusiast of his work.

In preparation for this exhibition, the summer of 1908 was especially prolific for the artist and between mid-June and late September 1908 Sorolla painted over 80 works of medium and large format.

The paintings from the beach of Valencia were a source of popular and critical interest in New York, and the American press were enthusiastic in their admiration of the brilliance of the effects of light produced by Sorolla. This acclaim quickly translated into commercial success.

The works from this period are painted in determined, long, confident strokes, full of strength, agility and ease. The palette is more potent than in earlier works. The way Sorolla captures the different lights of the day, the reflections of the water, and the reverberation of light show us the work of an artist at the height of his talent.

Sorolla did not include Beach of Valencia in the New York exhibition in 1909, as it was probably sold before it took place. However, he did include a similar painting, The Return from fishing (fig. 1). The fundamental difference between the two works lies in the different light that illuminates the paintings, The Return from Fishing being cast in warmer tones.

Ramiro de Maeztu wrote in the Buenos Aires newspaper La Prensa after visiting Joaquín Sorolla's exhibition in London, and probably at the same time that the artist painted Beach of Valencia:

'This man wants to paint everything; the passion for surprising all aspects of nature, even the most furtive and unstable...Those fugitives aspects have only been able to be reproduced by the confident and rapid brush strokes of Sorolla. This is his art, which can not be overcome by anyone. [His paintings] are creations and not mere reproductions of what the artist had in front of his eyes...'.

The works from the summer of 1908, and specifically the Beach of Valencia, evoke these reflections of Ramiro de Maeztu. When Sorolla depicted scenes of the Mediterranean, his paintings portrayed the excitement he felt when reunited with his homeland and especially with the Mediterranean. This is something that is also reflected, a few months before this picture was painted, in a passionate letter to his wife:

'I've been here since four in the afternoon and I have really enjoyed the splendid spectacle of so much light and colour...I have not wasted a moment seeing beautiful things, the fine blue water and the vibrations of the light were wild. I have witnessed the return of the fishermen, beautiful sailing boats, thousands of coloured lights reflected in the sea...', which later that year he would portray in Beach of Valencia.

We are grateful to Blanca Pons-Sorolla for confirming the authenticity of the present lot and for her assistance in preparing this catalogue entry.

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